S.F. law enforcement to stop using condoms to arrest, prosecute sex workers 

click to enlarge Condoms no longer used as evidence by S.F. police agencies in sex worker arrests. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Condoms no longer used as evidence by S.F. police agencies in sex worker arrests.

Police and prosecutors in San Francisco will no longer use condoms as evidence when arresting and charging sex workers, according to an agreement announced Tuesday between The City’s law enforcement agencies and the Human Rights Commission.

The agreement followed a six-month trial period in which condoms were not used as evidence in cases. The moratorium "did not prove to have any substantial negative impacts on public safety and the quality of life of the residents of San Francisco," according to the commission.

City officials believe that using condoms as evidence discourages prostitutes from bringing them to work, which makes them susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases.

The new agreement, according to District Attorney George Gascón, "will eliminate any discussion concerning the presence or absence of condoms as evidence in convicting or acquitting an individual of a prostitution-related crime."

The issue arose last year after a report from Human Rights Watch indicated that condoms had been used as evidence in several low-level prostitution cases despite a 1994 city policy that bars prosecutors from the practice.

In response, the commission set out to re-establish a policy that had apparently been forgotten by local law enforcement. That led to two trial periods that ended this month.

Theresa Sparks, the commission’s director, called the new agreement "a significant breakthrough that complements The City’s long-standing commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention."

Washington, D.C., is reportedly the only other city in the nation with a similar policy.

In the early 1990s, as The City’s war against the HIV/AIDS epidemic surged, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging police not to confiscate condoms from sex workers and urging prosecutors not to use them as evidence in court.

That also led to a successful trial period in which then-District Attorney Arlo Smith declared that prosecutors would permanently cease using them as evidence against prostitutes.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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